China’s scenic sites limit ‘golden week’ visitor numbers to cut crowds

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Several major tourist attractions in China have capped visitor numbers during this year’s National Day “golden week” holiday as millions take the chance to travel.

October 1 marked the start of a week-long break on the mainland, with an estimated 800 million people expected to go on trips in China or overseas, about 10 per cent more than last year, according to the China Tourism Academy.

The academy estimated that 726 million people would take domestic trips in this peak holiday period – a 9.4 per cent increase from last year, but that is the lowest level of growth since 2007 as pressure from China’s slowing economy and the trade war with the United States take their toll.

Managers at the scenic area surrounding the Leshan Giant Buddha – a 71-metre (233 feet) tall ancient statue carved into a cliff in southwestern Sichuan province – said last week that daily tickets would be capped at 22,400 during the holiday, which runs until Monday.

“Today’s tickets for the Giant Buddha have reached the limit and sales have stopped,” the park management committee said on its Weibo account on Tuesday. “To all tourists, please rearrange your itinerary. You can visit the areas surrounding the Giant Buddha scenic spot,” it said, adding that tickets could be booked online for any day for the rest of golden week.

“I expected it to be chock-full of people, but actually today it’s still relatively calm. I had lots of fun,” a visitor to the Giant Buddha told Pear Video on Tuesday.

Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan said last week that it would be limiting visitors to 5,000 per day during golden week and said on Monday that tickets had sold out.

The network of valleys known for its natural scenery was devastated by an earthquake in August 2017, and reopened with limited access in March 2018.

However, there were no restrictions at other attractions. In eastern Zhejiang province, 340,400 visitors went through the gates at Hangzhou’s West Lake on Tuesday, the Global Times’ Chinese edition reported.

“There’s too many people. I have never seen so many of them in my life,” one tourist was quoted as saying.

A guide also said that instances of “uncivilised behaviour”, such as trampling on the gardens, were down compared to last year.

“During the major holidays, many tourist attractions are so crowded that tourists can barely move an inch,” Hangzhou Daily said in an editorial on Monday.

“Not only is the tourist experience bad, but there are also safety hazards such as being trampled on, and this puts a lot of pressure on nearby public transport and food establishments.”

Travel booking platform Ctrip said that tourists heading overseas were increasingly seeking out new destinations, with bookings to places such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Malta and Cambodia up by 45 per cent this year.

However, bookings for Hong Kong had fallen substantially after nearly four months of anti-government protests, Ctrip said.

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